When unrestricted by pesky pandemics, The World Porridge Making Championship takes place each autumn in the Scottish highland village of Carrbridge. And people come from all over the world to try to win the Golden Spurtle®.
Of course, that can’t happen this year. But that hasn’t stopped eager competitors sending in their video entries for this year’s Virtual Spurtle contest.
The winners of this year’s event have been announced, just in time for World Porridge Day. So, if you fancy discovering some unusual porridge recipes, then the top entrants have some ideas for you. Check out the Sacher Torte, cranachan-inspired ice-cream sundae and savoury Japanese fusion dishes on the championship’s Facebook page!
The Carrbridge cooking contest
The very first Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship was held in Carrbridge in September 1994. It was created to help raise the profile of the village and attract visitors to the area outside of peak season. The contest, like today, had rules for making a basic porridge in the traditional way. A second contest for speciality porridge allows entrants to get creative and come up with some interesting recipes.
Entries in the first year came from all over Scotland, including from Dunoon and Iona. Now, of course, the championship attracts many international competitors too. And last year’s event attracted competitors from the US, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Russia as well as from Scotland, Ireland and England.
Today, under sponsorship, the event remains true to the principles established by its founders. It continues to be a means to promote Carrbridge through all things porridge. And it remains a not-for-profit activity. Since 2010, the World Porridge Making Championship has worked with Scottish-based charity, Mary’s Meals. They’ve even established a World Porridge Day, which falls on 10th October every year. The championships, through the local council, continue to support the community of Carrbridge and the work of Mary’s Meals.
Traditional Scottish porridge
So, now you know that the championship insists on traditional porridge making, it’s probably time to explain what that means. And no, it doesn’t include a packet and the microwave!
First, there’s the oats. And this is where it gets technical. Whole oats are called groats. These are the seeds of harvested oats, with the outer husks removed. Removing the husks is the first stage of the production process. Groats are then heated and dried in kilns. This removes their moisture and gives them their typically nutty flavour. It also allows them to be stored for longer.
What happens next depends on whether they are being used to produce porridge oats or oatmeal. They can be steamed, rolled and flaked to produce ‘rolled oats’ or ‘oatflakes’, which cook relatively quickly. Or rolled as whole groats to produce chunkier oats which take slightly longer to cook. This is oatmeal, the basic ingredient for the World Porridge Making Championship. As it takes longer to cook than rolled oats, many prefer to soak it in cold water overnight.
So, how do you cook it? With lots of milk and sugar? Irrespective of personal taste once it’s served, Scots advocate that it only contains salt, water and oats in the cooking. And these are the rules for the World Porridge Making Championship.
What is a spurtle?
The other thing you’re probably curious about is the spurtle. What is it and what has it got to do with making porridge? Well, a spurtle is the traditional tool made for stirring porridge as you’re cooking it. The spurtle is a rod shaped utensil made from wood. It’s designed to stop lumps from forming. And no one likes lumpy porridge.
The spurtle’s origins are unclear, but it’s known to have existed since at least the 15th century. Typically they were made by the person who used them. Made from a branch or sometimes a root with a sharp knife or tool.
There are actually two types of spurtle. The first is the rod spurtle, made from a straight piece of wood. And the couthie spurtle, which means plain. This has a flat blade at one end. These are more difficult to make but can also be used to turn eggs and oatcakes (and other breakfast foodstuffs).
The rod spurtle is today’s porridge making weapon of choice. It’s usually turned on a lathe, rather than whittled by hand. And they’re often shaped or tapered to suit the cook. The top of a spurtle can be decorated with fancy designs such as stags heads or thistles. But they’re not painted or treated, so they won’t taint the porridge.
It’s said that a spurtle should be used with the right hand and stirred clockwise to keep out the devil, but we’ll leave you to decide how you use one!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you might like our Curiosity of the Week page.
More info: www.goldenspurtle.com